Parents: Recognize the definite difference between intelligence and maturity
Our children are a reflection of us. In our western society, if a child is really smart it makes the parents look smart. Thus, many parents want to push their little ones to achieve early and impressively. This is unfair to the child as it doesn’t allow them to progress at their own rate.
Parents sometimes don’t realize there is a very real difference between intelligence and maturity. Intelligence is the capacity for learning while maturity is the state of being fully developed. A child can be very intelligent, but if we put them in a structured learning environment before they are mature enough to handle it well there will be trouble. The child, being too immature for the expectations placed on them, may begin to act up, may become depressed, may exemplify OCD, or display many other issues. It’s not that the child is bad, but simply not mature enough as yet to handle the stressors we’ve put on them.
Boys, especially, tend to mature at a later age than girls do. Again, this has nothing to do with the intelligence of our boys – only their maturation rate. If we expect them to function scholastically before they are mature enough for it, we can actually destroy their intelligence by causing them to become discouraged (feeling they are incapable of learning) and give up on learning. When the boy is mature enough to handle a regular dose of scholastics his intelligence will be obvious and will enable him to excel.
One more child we must consider is the baby who is born premature. Notice that word: pre-mature. Again, it has nothing in the world to do with intelligence; it simply means the fetus didn’t have the usual time in the womb to come to the full maturity a baby normally has at nine months. It means the baby must do some outside-the-womb maturing that the normal-term baby does inside the womb. Thus, it is behind schedule maturation wise in comparison to its peers born at the same time.
This baby may also have health issues that require it to spend time in the PICU – further delaying their opportunity at maturation. The baby can end up being a few, or several months, behind their peers.
Yet, when this child is school age (according to when they were born) we send them off to school expecting them to compete with, and keep up with, their age peers – forgetting that we never gave them the time to catch up to their age peers in maturity. What a handicap with which to begin a scholastic career. How sad and unfair for the child. If our little one has such an issue, we need to be patient with them as they finish maturing outside the womb. Maturity will come and then intelligence can be realized and well utilized. Perhaps starting school the next Fall would be a good choice for this child.
Be able to separate from Mom or Dad
School can be a challenge at times with schedules, rules, procedures, deadlines, expectations, new experiences, etc., etc., etc. The child who is confident and comfortable in their home environment and relationships has a tremendous head start in adjusting to new situations and expectations. They can more easily adapt to the school environment. They are more likely to allow Mom or Dad to drive away after dropping them at school because they know for a certainty that Mom or Dad will return. They have adequate trust in their parents to enable them to be separated for a few hours, knowing there will be a reunion in due time.
This confidence and comfort level enables the child to:
- Refocus on the teacher/s
- Respect the teacher/s (because they already respect the other elders in their life)
- View the teacher as an important authority figure
- Be willing to cooperate with the teacher
- Get along amiably with their fellow students
- Get on with the business of learning
Parents: Love your spouse
Remember the old adage: “Children learn what they live.” (Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.) This means that children who live in loving, kind, helpful, considerate homes tend to learn to be loving, kind, helpful, and considerate. These qualities can be a huge benefit for the child as they transition into a school situation. The teacher may “rise up and call you blessed” as you’ve just made her job much easier and more pleasant. She can get onto the task of teaching scholastics rather than focusing primarily on social skills.
The confidence and comfort level we spoke of in the above point can best be achieved by a happy, healthy, secure home. When love is the ruling force in the home the child feels comfortable; they feel secure; they learn to love and to trust. These qualities are huge benefits to them in their schooling! For one thing, they begin school with a sweet spirit – every teacher’s dream.
Seeing love and respect between Mom and Dad (as well as from Mom and Dad toward the children) makes for greater health on the part of the child – mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically. The child has homeostasis; they can better relate to others around them and they can better endure the rigors of learning and interacting with those who may differ with them. They can more easily adjust to the schedule and the many expectations that come their way, and they can focus on their schoolwork and do their best because they are at ease and their attention is undivided.
The child who hears Mom and Dad arguing at home and speaking rudely to each other is on edge. He becomes insecure – “What’s going to happen next? Will home be happy this evening, or not? Will Daddy stay away from home again tonight? Etc.” A child who has these types of thoughts going through their little minds can’t calm down, focus on schoolwork, and do well. They may display disrespectful, belligerent, uncooperative, defiant, – even combative attitudes and may be hurtful towards others. No learning can happen when the child is in this mode.
This is the child who gets in trouble for misbehaving. Can we blame him? His world is topsy-turvy; he doesn’t understand, doesn’t know what to expect; there is no comfort level for him, he doesn’t know how to express his discomfort and unease. Yet, the school expects him to sit down, pay attention, do his best, and keep up with the class.
Let love reign in the home – this is absolutely vital. Again, family worship times can benefit the home and everyone in it. Family worship can bring the family members together, help them bond with each other, help them grow in God as well as in the family, and can establish positive character traits in each one. Life will be more blessed for all. Such an atmosphere will naturally carry over into the school and allow the child to do his best at his “job” – learning.
Parents: Model studying and learning
As we noted before, “Children learn what they live.” (Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.) This is true in studying and learning as well as other areas of life. When children see their parents studying to improve themselves and learning new things they come to value learning. This mindset transfers to the classroom; they find it easier to be serious about their schoolwork. They look forward to learning; what a joy for a teacher to have students with this mindset; that teacher can really accomplish something grand with those students.
Reading material in the home sends a message to the child that reading for learning is important. Pity the child who has no reading material at home, who never (or seldom) observes Mom or Dad reading. That child is unlikely to see the value of learning to read when in the classroom. The view they have is that their parents are doing just fine without reading; why should they struggle to learn how?
Parents can begin to teach a love for reading and studying even while the baby is in the womb. Choose quality literature. Read aloud, with expression. Discuss the passages. Prenatal influences can have a strong influence on the unborn child that can pay off beautifully as they grow and mature.
Turn off the TV and have a family-read-night. Each person reads something of interest to them, then shares what they’ve read with the whole family. This is a great way of teaching the value of reading, questions can be asked that will enable the child to better comprehend what they’ve read, the child can improve their communication skills, the family bonds while growing the child academically. This is win-win!
Provide quality, non-fiction literature for the young child. Sit and read to them (more lap time), teach how to take care of books, allow the child to handle books that are appropriate for their age. Start with cloth books for the baby, board books for the toddler, and small, inexpensive books for the child who can handle them, then regular books for the careful child. A child who learns to value books when they are little is being well-prepared for a lifelong love of learning. Well done, Parent.
Written by Mary Ann Walden
Former Education Department Chair of Private College
Droolees LLC Education Blog Contributor
Meet Mary Ann Walden - Mary Ann Walden taught in small Christian schools for 27 years in various combinations of Pre-K - Grade10. Eleven of those years were in one-room situations (Grades 1-8). For the next six years, as ED Dept. Chair of Ouachita Hills College, she trained future Christian teachers. Mrs. Walden and her husband have since retired to the beautiful Virginia mountains where she spends her time writing books for teachers and children. You can find her published works at www.Walden-Wonders.com